Setting up a remote hiring process to build a strong remote team

Kipwise is a 100% remote team with teammates from the Americas, Europe and Asia. Through the process of building up our remote team, we identified the differences in the approach that you would need to take when compared to hiring locally.

In this article, we will share our learnings from hiring remotely and the steps that we include in our screening process to help us find the right person. We hope these sharing can help you build up a more repeatable scalable remote hiring process to grow your remote team.

Identifying important traces that make for a good remote worker

Not everyone is suitable for remote work, so before you start your hiring process for a remote position, you will need to identify the traits that make a person suitable to work in a remote environment.

In our previous blog post Remote work not working? Some people just don’t fit in remote-work, we shared in more details the three most important traits that make for a great remote worker, they include

  • Passion
  • Proactiveness
  • Self-discipline

The biggest worry of managers when it comes to managing a remote team is usually about teammates slacking off without managers being present. That’s why we list passion as the most important trait in our hiring process, because enjoying the work is the key to maintaining self-discipline. It’s difficult to force someone to be productive on something they don’t like. During the interview process that we are going to mention in this article, we also design tasks for candidates to test if they can deliver without close monitoring.

Other than passion and self-discipline, proactiveness is a very important trait as well. Working remotely means you cannot physically see whether your teammates are struggling with certain tasks. You cannot hear them sighing. You cannot see them head-scratching. Remote teammates have to raise questions and ask for help at the right moments so that you can solve problems efficiently as a team.

Unlike tactical skills, these traits are harder to “train”. That’s why the hiring process is the most important part of creating a successful remote team. Whether you have hired the right person will greatly determine whether your remote team will actually work.

How to write a job description that attracts strong candidates

Other than simply laying out the responsibilities and requirements of the role, focuses on communicating the core values and the style of work of your team.

If your company is still a small team that might not have a local reputation, add in elements to build up the trust that your company is a strong team to join. For example, is your company backed by some investors? Are there any impressive clients or growth that you can showcase?

Include a small task for candidates to prove their abilities

And in the job post, instead of just asking the candidate to provide their resumes, try to ask them to answer some questions or do a simple task that proves their abilities for the role.

For example, if you are hiring a sales role, ask them to write a sample pitch email to a potential customer. If you are hiring a product manager, try to give a sample scenario and ask them to prioritize the tasks and explain the rationale behind.

Adding this small task might defer some people from applying to the job. But this is exactly the filter that you want to have in your application process especially if you are going to post the job ad in job boards. As there are simply many people who will apply for any job as long as it lets them work remotely, and they might not have real interest in your company and the thing that your company is working on. If a candidate is really excited about your company, they will be willing to spend the extra effort. Remember the 3 important traits that make for a great remote worker that we mentioned above? Passion is one of them.

Create a Career Page to show your company culture and style of work

To better communicate your company culture and style of work, it’s worth the effort to create a good career page on your website and link to that in your job ad. On this page, share the story of your company, your core values, how the team looks like, perks and benefits, open roles, etc.

To make the page more lively, add in team photos that you have taken during remote team meetings, company retreats and ask a few teammates to share their stories of working remotely for your company.

Some attractive career pages that you can use as references include Buffer, Zapier and Prezly.

Where to find good remote team candidates

Your own network

In a remote setting, you often can’t see your teammates every day, so whether you can trust the person is very important. If you have worked with someone in the past and enjoy working with them, try to approach them to see if they would like to join you. Having the experience of working together in the past can often make the onboarding process much easier as you already know the working style of the person.

Other than your own network, try to ask your teammates, investors, partners or customers to see if they know anyone that fits your position. Because these people know you and have an understanding of how you work, they are more likely to understand what kind of people you are looking for.

Add a “We’re hiring” link in your content

For example, add a “we’re hiring” link in your blog posts, social media profiles and user update emails. People who read your blog posts and social media are likely people who are interested in the topics that your company is working on and likewise for your user base, your users are the ones who are familiar with your product and understand how it solves people’s pain points.

Job boards

Job boards can be your last resort if you can’t source good candidates in your network. Some job boards that people usually look for remote opportunities include AngelList, WeWorkRemotely, Remote.co, etc. But just as mentioned above, if you are going to post the job ad in job boards, you might receive a lot of applications where the candidates simply apply because it lets them work remotely, but they might not be really interested in your company and what you are doing in particular. So designing your remote interview process to help you screen out these candidates in an effective way is crucial.

Designing your remote interview process

Sort through applicants with some pre-screen questions

Just as mentioned above, in the job post, try to include some pre-screen questions for the candidates to prove their abilities for the role.

For example, if you are hiring for sales, ask them to write a sample pitch email to a potential customer. If you are hiring a product manager, try to give them a sample scenario and ask them to prioritize the tasks and explain the rationale behind.

These pre-screen questions can help you screen out unqualified candidates much more quickly and effectively than simply looking at someone’s resume. For those who provide good responses for those pre-screen questions, we will then look through their resumes in more detail to look for hints on whether they are really passionate about the work they are doing. For example, the candidate said that he is passionate about machine learning? Did he do any relevant side projects or engage in any non-work-related experience in relevant fields?

For the candidates who don’t pass this initial screening, it’s a good habit to send them a rejection email in a timely and kind manner. This way, you give out an image that you are a responsible that respects your applicants and it also helps to reduce the chance that the candidates will send follow-up emails to other departments such as support and creates unnecessary back-and-forths.

Give the qualified candidates a short task

Depending on the number of applications we received, normally we will pick no more than 10 candidates and give them a short home task to further test their skills and abilities.

For example, for a content marketer, this can be laying out a 3 months content strategy and provide a sample blog post. Then for a UX designer, it might be drafting out a plan to improve the onboarding flow for the product.

Besides testing the tactical skills of the candidates, this home task can often show you more hints about the working style of a candidate. Usually, instead of giving super detailed instructions, we encourage the candidates to ask us questions instead. This can help you understand if the candidates are proactive enough and whether they have the communication skills and can ask the right questions when needed to get their job done – a very important trait that makes for a good remote worker.

This home task also serves as a good test to test their dedication. If a candidate is truly interested in your company, he/she will be willing to spend that few hours of effort to complete the home task.

Invite the top candidates to video interviews and involve your teammates

For the candidates that we are impressed by the home task, we will then invite them to video interviews. At this part of the interview, we pay special attention to how well a candidate communicates because effective communication is very important in a remote working environment. Other than the performance during the video calls, whether the candidate is flexible with the interview time, on time for the scheduled interview and does good follow up after the interview also gives you good hints about whether the candidate is a good fit.

Instead of simply scheduling one video between you and the candidate, it’s great to involve your teammates at this stage of the hiring process. Not only it provides a better understanding for the candidates about the people that they are going to work with, Having some other teammates to be involved in the process can often give you a more objective picture. It is because when you are in a hurry to hire someone, especially when that position is to help free you up from some tasks, it’s easy for you to fall into a trap where you ignore some red flags.

Paid trial period

One good thing about hiring remotely is that it’s much easier to conduct a paid trial period even if the candidate still hasn’t left his/her current position.

Depending on the nature of the role that we are hiring, we normally invite our best candidate to have a 1-2 week paid trial period with us before we make the final decision. This way, you and your team get to really work with the candidate to see how well the candidate performs in the actual team environment, whether he/she fit in with the team culture and if he/she really can perform well in a remote setting. The candidate also benefits from this trial period as he/she can really have a first-hand feeling on whether the team and position actually fits.

Hopefully the above process can help you find the right fit for your remote team. As the next step, read more about the Best Practices for Onboarding Remote Employees.

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